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Friday, 11 November 1927
Page: 1348

Senator McLACHLAN (South Australia) (Honorary Minister) . - Whether it be right or wrong that a committee should be empowered, as committees appointed by this Parliament are empowered by statute, to grant to witnesses that protection which apparently has been granted to the full by the Public Accounts Committee, I ask honorable senators to pause before they commit themselves to a step which would not only stultify the word of honour of every member of the committee, but also greatly stultify the honour of this Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) assured us this afternoon thai he regarded as confidential the information on this issue that had been brought before him as a member of the Public Accounts Committee. To agree to Senator Duncan's amendment would react to the dishonour of the name of the highest tribunal in the land.

Senator Needham - The Public Accounts Committee could not pledge Parliament.

Senator McLACHLAN - No, but a committee having acted in pursuance of the powers conferred upon it by statute, it would be a disgrace to this Parliament, and to each individual member of Parliament, were we not to uphold it in what it has done. Senator Greene has referred to the practice adopted in extending this protection to witnesses tendering evidence. It is not a new thing. Section 23 of the Public Works Committee Act empowers the Public Works Committee to take evidence in private, and proceeds to lay down the following : -

Any person who discloses or publishes any evidence in contravention of this section shall be guilty of an offence. Penalty, £500 or three months' imprisonment.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands). - The time now being 4 o'clock, I must, under the sessional order, put the question -

That the Senate do now adjourn.

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